GPS data shows ticketed teenager wasn’t speeding

RMTRoverGPS.jpg

An 18 year old kid is contesting a speeding ticket in court with the aid of his GPS unit.

The unit in question was an RMT Rover, one of those vehicle tracking dealies (as opposed to the turn-by-turn dashboard models), which looks like it may have been surreptitiously installed in Shaun Malone’s car by his parents to keep an eye on him. When he got pulled over by radar-gun touting police officers for supposedly going 62 MPH, 17 MPH over the speed limit, Malone and his parents fought back, citing data from the RMT Rover system that he had been exactly following the 45 MPH speed limit all the way way home. That’s not terribly exciting, but the court room drama was: an expert witness called by the police changed his testimony on the stand, claiming that the RMT Rover was “accurate to within a couple of meters and within 1mph.” Case dismissed. The case continues, with further expert testimony to come.

I love it. This is the way it shouldwork: police claim you’re speeding, and you have verifiable, third-party proof at your finger tips that they are wrong (or you are). Cops have incentives to bust you unjustly: they have ticketing quotas to meet. Likewise, you have reasons to lie: a couple hundred bucks out of pocket. But a GPS unit has no incentive to twist data one way or another.

Update: Received from a Mark Haas:

It appears that Rocky Mountain Trackers posted an uninformed press release claiming victory in the Shaun Malone case in Sonoma County, but independent press reports (I cited one in my comment to the post) clearly note that the next phase of the trial has really just begun and the judge is currently awaiting evidence from another GPS expert in October And so the case can’t have been decided yet. ! RMT has also removed the press release from their web site.

Update (8/1/08): “GPS Tracking,” apparently from the company itself, adds the following:

Rocky Mountain Tracking appreciates your interest in this story. However, you have posted a statement at the bottom of the article that is false.

1) Rocky Mountain Tracking has not changed its press release in any way.

2) Rocky Mountain Tracking has not claimed victory in the case.

3) Rocky Mountain Tracking has not posted an uninformed press release.

4) Rocky Mountain Tracking has not removed the press release. The press release remains here where it has always been since the release date:

http://www.rmtracking.com/press.html

5) Rocky Mountain Tracking would like you to correct the false information in the following statement:

“It appears that Rocky Mountain Trackers posted an uninformed press release claiming victory in the Shaun Malone case in Sonoma County, but independent press reports (I cited one in my comment to the post) clearly note that the next phase of the trial has really just begun and the judge is currently awaiting evidence from another GPS expert in October And so the case can’t have been decided yet. ! RMT has also removed the press release from their web site.”

Speeding Radar Gun vs. GPS [Hot Hardware]

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19 Responses to GPS data shows ticketed teenager wasn’t speeding

  1. Ryanwoofs says:

    Ruh-roh, Rocky Mountain Trackers unpublished something from their website?? Form Blazing Sword, Perpetual-State Internet Warriors! To the battlefield!

  2. gps tracking says:

    Rocky Mountain Tracking appreciates your interest in this story. However, you have posted a statement at the bottom of the article that is false.

    1) Rocky Mountain Tracking has not changed its press release in any way.

    2) Rocky Mountain Tracking has not claimed victory in the case.

    3) Rocky Mountain Tracking has not posted an uninformed press release.

    4) Rocky Mountain Tracking has not removed the press release. The press release remains here where it has always been since the release date:
    http://www.rmtracking.com/press.html

    5) Rocky Mountain Tracking would like you to correct the false information in the following statement:

    “It appears that Rocky Mountain Trackers posted an uninformed press release claiming victory in the Shaun Malone case in Sonoma County, but independent press reports (I cited one in my comment to the post) clearly note that the next phase of the trial has really just begun and the judge is currently awaiting evidence from another GPS expert in October And so the case can’t have been decided yet. ! RMT has also removed the press release from their web site.”

  3. guicansado says:

    Sorry Jim Rizzo, but GPS speeds are fairly more accurate than what your speedometer tells you. Your speedometer depends on several variables, such as Wheel Diameter, sensors, calibration etc… While a GPS simply measures the distance it did from point A to point B in what amount of time, thus obtaining a speed. (very accurate). And it wouldn’t matter if your GPS system was in low reception. As long as you see your little arrow moving, you get accurate speed. Cops have a higher chance of getting a wrong target due to the functioning of a radar gun. He might as well aim at a car going the opposite direction and assume its the fellow that went right past him. oh well.. hope that enlightens you. ;)

  4. Rob Beschizza says:

    Mark,

    John cited another story which (still) contains the incorrect information, and the press release which originally promulgated it. At the time of publication, this piece reflected what was known; it’s now been updated.

  5. Jim Rizzo says:

    I have to agree with Clarkie on this one. It may be beneficial to a cop to lie, but I’ve never been pulled over and received an actual ticket with the wrong speed. Heck, I got lucky one time and the cop didn’t clock me until I had slowed down about 10 mph. The only time the cop didn’t know how fast I was going I was given a written warning, which amounts to him telling me “don’t speed” and walking away.

    I regularly drive with my turn-by-turn GPS and sometimes have it set to display my speed. It’s generally off by at least 5 mph when I compare it to my speedometer. The speedometer is actually measuring something, the GPS is doing math and sometimes it’s fuzzy math. I’d say the radar/laser that the cops use is a bit more accurate than GPS.

    However, it is possible the cop clocked someone breaking the speed limit, but pulled over the wrong car (though that’s pretty unlikely because they do have to aim those guns at the cars). And what’s the likelihood that the teen was driving exactly the speed limit?

  6. hscohen says:

    Did the police officers brag about the quality of their equipment (=”radar-gun touting”)?
    Or were they merely carrying it (=”radar-gun toting”)?
    Inquiring buckaroos want to know.

  7. Anonymous says:

    What the prosecutor ought to say is, “OK, show us the source code for the GPS.” I’ve heard that this works for defendants with breathalyzers, so why not prosecutors?

  8. Anonymous says:

    If I was a manufacturer of GPS devices I would offer a free service to issue a certificate of recorded speed and maybe even a company witness for the defense of wronged speeding tickets as an incentive to buy my product. ie. I get pulled over. I call my GPS Provider. “Was I speeding?” GPS OPERATOR: “No, looks like you were 3MPH under the limit.” “Hey Officer. GPS lady says I was 3 under.” OFFICER: “Damn! F**kin’ GPS technology.”

  9. Mikeblanco says:

    I’m one of those 50 year old father types who “pathologically” drives the speed limit and I was pulled over on an interstate by a policeman who accused me driving 26 mph over. After a somewhat heated conversation he walked to the front of the car and it was clear from the look on his face he realized he had pulled over the wrong car. He just walked back by the window and threw my id in without saying a word. Had I been a teenager or black I certainly would have been given a ticket.

    People speed all the time, very few people contest tickets and generally when they do its just their word against the police. The judge should have dismissed this case when the evidence was presented. In the time he’s fooling around with this he could have handled a dozen other cases.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry, but anyone who thinks that most cops act honorably live in a parallel universe. I’ve had several cops try to absolutely pull stuff out of thin air, and, even though it’s said to never argue with a cop, I successfully (and forcefully) argued my way out of total crap tickets! There are good cops out there, but it is far too easy to abuse the power that comes with the badge. And who HASN’T been harrassed (or at least, messed with) by cops as a teenager?

  11. markhaas says:

    I think you guys have jumped the gun. As far as I can tell, nothing has been decided. The case went before a second commissioner, but no decision will be made before October at the earliest, as that is when she will be looking at additional evidence. The press release from RMT has been removed from the site.

    http://www.petaluma360.com/article/20080712/NEWS/807120355/-1/petaluma360&template=ptart

    “A GPS expert the city retained has been called to testify twice, at $5,000 per appearance, and is scheduled to return Oct. 3 when the trial resumes.”

  12. clarkie604 says:

    Cops might have a slight incentive to lie, but it can’t be too hard to find actual speeders. I’ve been stopped more times than I like to admit, and the cop has always been right on about how fast I was going. In fact, I tend to believe the cop over the kid and the RMT Rover. Is it really that accurate?

  13. bardfinn says:

    I tend to believe the third-party impartial witness.

    My father’s been pulled over several times by police who “failed” to calibrate their devices, who “measured” his speed in moderate traffic conditions while operating a speed trap – his drives take him through several different small municipalities here in Dallas/Fort Worth that exist solely as self-governing enclaves for a rich neighborhood (these municipalities exist entirely surrounded by another municipality and they incorporated by seceding) – where up to 50% of the police’s resources are spent on ticketing people for exceeding the speed limit, and up to 80% of their police force budget is based on speeding fines.

    My father /pathologically/ drives under the speed limit, even here in Texas where it is an affirmative defense to a speeding ticket that you were conforming to the flow of the traffic, and calibrates his speedometer himself to be as accurate as it can be.

    My father has noted to me, several times, that if every single person who was issued a speeding ticket contested it in court, it would quickly bankrupt these revenue-generating systems and move municipalities to generate their revenue legitimately – by taxing their own residents and businesses – and free police to actually perform policework, rather than pervert the public trust.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Uninformed press release or non-careful readers?

    The press release from RMT, dated July 17, is still on RMT’s web site (as of 12:20 p.m. July 20). And it does not say the kid beat the ticket.

    It says the GPS is giving the teen plenty of ammo to plead “not guilty.” It does not say there is a verdict.

    It also says that the GPS expert who previously spoke against the teen – said in a report that he had to have been speeding – has changed his opinion and now says the GPS accurate to within 1 mph.

    http://www.rmtracking.com/press.html
    The announcement is at the top of the list of recent news releases.

  15. chromal says:

    If cops can smash in windows to rescue ‘dolls,’ why shouldn’t they be able to issue unjust speeding tickets with impunity. I say send the kid to jail. The badge a police man wears makes him infallible, or so the groupthink consensus at boingboing goes.

  16. The Lizardman says:

    Where is the disciplinary action against the officer for the bad stop & ticket, not to mention seemingly apparent perjury testifying about it?

    Law enforcement personnel who even give the appearance of impropriety much less actually screw up need to be (severely) disciplined as they are the source of the lack of confidence and distrust many people have now. I want to be pro-police but I need better police who are properly regulated for that to happen.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I have seen quite a few comments praising the accuracy of GPS and even claims of the inaccuracy of the speedometer.

    As long as you are using the correct size tyres for your car, I have much greater faith in the factory tested speedometer over a GPS module which can suffer from a multitude of errors as discussed here.
    http://www.kowoma.de/en/gps/errors.htm

    Besides, the kid needed his parents to track him. Seems they don’t trust him, why should anyone else? :)

  18. CastanhasDoPara says:

    Always question authority if that authority fails at basic rigor. A free and just society is based on the ability of those governed to speak out against injustice and miscarriages of law. True technology is not the end all be all of truth whether that is a radar gun or a GPS unit, however I would doubt the eye-witness (cop/accused) more so than I would accurately recorded data from a properly calibrated device. Reason being; people lie for all sorts of reasons, systems only do what they are designed to do with out the shackles of ethics or politics. That is assuming the designers are honest of course. So the big picture is fuzzy at best but at least technology can be made to conform to standards and rules, people not so much.

    Given that argument, the question that sticks in my stack is “why should we trust electronic voting systems (and their vendors/benefactors) which are demonstrably corruptible”?

  19. PNutts says:

    #7 – GPS *is* measuring something and very high precision unless you are in an area of limited coverage (tunnel, etc.). Your speedometer, however, is affected my many different mechanical influences. For example, by a “bigger” set of tires and your speed is under reported. Your speedo will say 55 but you are really going 60.

    Some highways have signs that for one mile are placed every 1/10th of a mile apart so you can check the accuracy of your odometer, which is driven by the same mechanism as your speedometer. If your odometer registers .9 miles, then your speed is under reported and you are actually going faster than the speedometer indicates. If the odometer reports 1.1 miles, your speed is over reported and you are actually going slower than the speedometer shows.

    If I have that backwards, let me know. I haven’t had my morning coffee yet… The point is that mechanical speedometers are affected by a number of influences.

    I remember taking a family trip in two cars. Good old Dad was frustrated because Mom was only driving 50. Her speedometer, however, showed 55.

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